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COVID-19 Update | Tuesday, May 26 (AM)

May 26, 2020


Senate Activities

  • The Senate is in recess this week and returns to Washington, DC next week.
  • Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) visited the White House where he stated that the VA Mission Act should be considered emergency spending.
    • The program, which allows veterans the ability to see doctors in their own communities as opposed to the VA, costs $12.5B per year and declaring it an emergency would remove it from the budget’s bottom line and would give the Senate Appropriations Committee additional money to spend on other priorities.
    • House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) disagrees.
  • The Alaska Delegation voiced their support for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) decision to continue processing applications for new natural gas projects and liquefied natural gas export facilities, despite calls from the Democratic party to stop.
  • Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety, wrote a letter to the President opposing his recent decision to replace Mitchell Behm as the acting inspector general at the Department of Transportation (DOT) with Skip Elliot. The full letter can be found here.
  • Today, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) announced the full committee and subcommittee markup schedule for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021. All markups will be conducted at the Secret level, with the exception of the Subcommittee on Personnel markup, and therefore will be closed to the press and public. The full press release can be found here and the schedule is:
    • Monday, June 8:
      • 2:30 PM – Subcommittee on Readiness – Russell SR-232A (CLOSED)
      • 4 PM – Subcommittee on Strategic Forces – Russell SR-232A (CLOSED)
    • Tuesday, June 9:
      • 9:30 AM – Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities – Russell SR-232A (CLOSED)
      • 11 AM – Subcommittee on Airland – Russell SR-232A (CLOSED)
      • 2 PM – Subcommittee on Personnel – Dirksen SD-G50 (OPEN – please see press RSVP information in the Press Release)
      • 3:30 PM – Subcommittee on Seapower – Russell SR-232A (CLOSED)
      • 5:30 PM – Subcommittee on Cybersecurity – Russell SR-232A (CLOSED)
    • The NDAA will be considered by the Full Committee on the following dates:
      • Wednesday, June 10, 9:30 AM – Dirksen SD-106 (CLOSED)
      • If needed: Thursday, June 11, 9:30 AM – Dirksen SD-106 (CLOSED)

House Activities

  • The House returns from recess this Wednesday and Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proffered an agenda that includes consideration of:
  • As part of House Democrats’ broader agenda, the Speaker included:
    • Surface transportation/highway bill;
    • Flood insurance;
    • Water infrastructure; and
    • The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
  • The House was initially expected to pass all 12 of its annual appropriations bills off the floor by June. However, the House wants to continue to focus on the COVID-19 relief package, and thus will delay consideration of the appropriations bills. 
  • House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) continues to voice his concern that the Administration is reopening federal parks/lands for political reasons and that the reopening plans lack precautions to protect human health and safety due to the pandemic. He has also indicated that he has received little information from the Administration to date on reopening parks.
  • Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), along with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY), Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), introduced legislation Friday to expand the PPP to include payments for waste and recycling collection services as covered utility payments for calculating the eligible amount of forgiveness on a PPP loan.
  • Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced a bill on Friday to provide cash reimbursements for cancelled airline flights and tickets during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Rep. Connor Lamb (D-PA) introduced a bill on Friday to extend the covered period for loan forgiveness and the rehiring period under the CARES Act.
  • Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) introduced a bill on Friday to provide liability protection for non-profit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie is scheduled to testify on Thursday before the House Appropriations Committee on the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 1,000 patients under VA care. Reports indicate that around 1,300 sick patients have been administered the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine.


  • The White House over the weekend announced new travel restrictions to and from Brazil. The restrictions will go into effect this evening at 11:59pm. Brazil currently has nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the second-most in the world behind the United States. As of yesterday, the country had confirmed more than 11,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours.
    • The proclamation suspends entry for any individual that is a non-U.S. citizen who has been in Brazil within 14 days immediately preceding their attempt to enter the United States.
    • Green card holders, close relatives of U.S. citizens, and flight crew members are exempt.
  • Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci said over the weekend that it is inevitable that there will be a second wave of COVID-19. The President continues to assert that the country will not close if there is a second wave.
  • On Friday, the Trump Administration released long-awaited rules on how government-backed small business loans can be forgiven, but reports indicate that the rules fall short of what employers and lawmakers are demanding for the PPP. The two sets of rules detail the requirements for loan forgiveness and the lenders’ responsibilities in the forgiveness process as well as the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) procedures for reviewing loans to determine borrower eligibility.
    • The SBA said in the rules that banks must issue decisions on borrowers’ loan forgiveness applications no later than 60 days after receiving them and that the agency will send payment to the lender within 90 days.
    • The rules also explain how SBA will review some loans to determine whether borrowers should have received the aid in the first place.
  • The President continues to indicate that he may select a new location other than Charlotte, NC for the RNC Convention this year if North Carolina restricts access to the event.
  • In a recent report to Congress, titled the COVID-19 Strategic Testing Plan, the Administration pledged to buy 100M swabs by the end of this year to distribute to states to help expand the nation’s testing capacity. The report, which has not been immediately made public, was delivered to lawmakers on Sunday and reports indicate that it doubles down on the Administration’s stance that individual states, not the federal government, should have the primary responsibility for carrying out COVID-19 tests.
  • The President is expected to broaden existing bans on foreign workers. Reports indicate that he is expected to extend and expand restrictions on foreign workers coming into the United States during the pandemic, but few other details have been released. The Administration received pressure from both Congress and anti-immigration groups in recent months to broaden and expand the April Executive Order that barred several categories of foreign workers from entering the country for a temporary period.
  • DOT is alleging that the Chinese government is making it impossible for U.S. airlines to resume flights to China and that it has delayed multiple Chinese charter flights.
    • United and Delta want to restart flights to China next month, but reports indicate that Chinese authorities have not been responsive to the request, leading DOT to require Air China, China Eastern Airlines Corp, China Southern Airlines Co., Hainan Airlines Holding Co. and their subsidiaries to file flight schedules and other details by Wednesday. The order also requires Chinese carriers to notify the department of any proposed changes they intend.
    • The order does not impose any restrictions or penalty on the four airlines from China serving U.S. markets, but it serves as a warning after repeated objections by the U.S. failed to see action.
  • On Friday, DOT issued a set of new exemptions allowing airlines to suspend service to certain points. 15 airlines were given permission to stop flying to 75 airports during the pandemic. The full list, which includes 11 exemptions each for United and Delta and five each for JetBlue, Alaska, and Frontier, can be found here.
  • The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on Friday petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider approval of Ligado Networks’ 5G plan because of worries it could impact GPS signals.
  • A Federal judge denied the Administration’s request to delay an upcoming hearing on California’s request to block the rewritten Waters of the U.S. rule.
    • The Administration asked for more briefing time, which would have meant the Navigable Water Protection rule would have been in effect for weeks before the judge could decide on a preliminary injunction.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) partnered with the U.K. National Cyber Security Centre late last week and issued security guidance for industrial control system operators. The guidance outlines potential impacts of a cyber incident and lists the most common IT and operational technology flaws that CISA saw in Fiscal Year 2019. The guidance can be found here.
  • The President has indicated he may be changing his posture on the phase one China trade deal to counter a message from Joe Biden that he has been soft on China to preserve the trade deal. Top Administration officials also said that any potential gains from the Phase 1 trade deal could soon be eclipsed.
  • On Friday, the Department of Commerce added 33 Chinese companies and institutions to its blacklist, effectively barring U.S. companies from exporting technology or doing business with them. The new list includes Qihoo 360 Technology and advanced cloud robotics tech company CloudMinds. More information on the companies added can be found here.
  • The Administration is seeking public comment on an implementation plan for a White House 5G security strategy pursuant to a 60-day statutory deadline in the Secure 5G and Beyond Act that was signed into law on March 23.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their guidance on the spread of transmission of COVID-19 on Friday. They now claim that while it is possible that the virus can spread from contaminated surfaces, it is not the main source of transmission. The updated guidelines can be found here.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is hosting a Virtual Forum Focusing on Small Businesses Amid the COVID-19 Crisis. The forum will focus on challenges faced by minority owned businesses, the role of community financial institutions, and actions that philanthropic, nonprofit, and government organizations can take to help recovery. Registration information can be found here.
  • Federal Register Notices
    • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of $1.25 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Public Transportation Innovation Program funds to demonstrate and evaluate innovative technologies and designs to improve the state of good repair for transit agencies. The notice can be found here.
    • The Food and Drug administration (FDA) announced the availability of a variety of new guidance for COVID-19. The notice can be found here.
    • The Small Business Administration (SBA) is extending the date by which certain Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) borrowers may repay their loans from May 14, 2020 to May 18, 2020 for some recipients. The notice can be found here

Other News

  • A World Health Organization (WHO) official said Sunday that the United States leaving the organization would be “unimaginable.” The official cited the United States as a founder of the WHO and stated that the WHO has benefited from the generosity and support of the people of the United States since its inception. The remarks come almost one week after the President sent a letter to the WHO threatening to permanently halt funding to the organization.
  • Nearly 30 states have changed rules of practices for this year’s primaries or general elections in response to the pandemic. According to the Washington Post, the new policies affect around 86.6 million registered voters, including more than 40 million people who now have the temporary right to cast an absentee ballot due to COVID-19.
  • Yesterday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted a COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and four other remaining areas. President Abe also unveiled a new stimulus package worth about $930B to provide financial support for companies hit by the pandemic.
  • Current projections have the economy contracting by 6% to 7% this year and that unemployment will remain in double-digit percentages for the near future.
  • The Alliance for Automotive Innovation continues to defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) auto emissions rollback. The Alliance specifically stated that the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “lawfully exercised their discretion in setting their standards in accordance with the applicable statutory requirements.”
  • Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is hoping that setting USMCA’s entry into force as July 1 will help the country draw more investment.
    • The Mexican auto industry is set to be considered an essential business and therefore allowed to resume operations on June 1, but companies can start earlier with proper safety protocols.
    • Reports indicate regional issues as some Mexican states struggle with the spread of COVID-19. Auto industry groups in the country are calling on specific regional governments where they are seeing issues urging them to allow for a gradual reopening of auto manufacturing plants.
  • A new report from Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable was issued and examines the impacts of COVID-19 on small and medium sized businesses and their needs to economically recover. The full report can be found here.
  • Tyson Foods, the largest meat processor in the United States, has transformed its facilities across the country after workers tested positive for COVID-19. Precautions have included establishing on-site medical clinics, screening employees for fevers at the beginning of their shifts, requiring the use of face coverings, installing plastic dividers between stations, and more.
  • At least 20 states have taken action in the past two and a half months to limit the legal exposure of the nursing home industry. As we have reported, nursing homes have experienced significant death and have been at the forefront of the discussion of liability protections in light of the pandemic. 
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